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The Characteristics of Autism

Autism is a highly variable, neurological developmental disorder whose symptoms first appear during infancy or childhood, and generally follows a steady course without remission. People with autism may be severely impaired in some respects but average, or even superior, in others.  Overt symptoms gradually begin after the age of six months, become established by age two or three years and tend to continue through adulthood, although often in more muted form.  It is distinguished by a characteristic triad of symptoms: impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, and repetitive behavior. Other aspects, such as atypical eating, are also common but are not essential for diagnosis.  Individual symptoms of autism occur in the general population and appear not to associate highly, without a sharp line separating pathologically severe from common traits.